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Writing Ruminations

Writing is such an internal process. Why not make those private ruminations public? This is how stories take shape and grow.

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Location: Happy Valley, Oregon, United States

I've been supporting myself as a writer for many years and am watching the changes in the publishing world with fascination. For me, sharing the craft, teaching, is as creatively satisfying as the writing process itself.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Puppy Herding

This has been a tough couple of weeks. A lot of things converged and I didn't have enough hours. But hey, life is like that sometimes. And today, I had a date with Trudy, my Aussie puppy Cricket's breeder, to put her on ducks. And I went. Cricket's mom, Tick, is a stunning herder with a lot of herding trial trophies and I wanted to see how she measured up.

So today, on a foggy, cold afternoon, Trudy sorted five ducks out into the small paddock and I...with some trepidation...took a VERY interested Cricket out into the arena. We're looking for natural behavior right now. You can add a lot of training as a pup gets older, but right now, you get what that pup has, unadulterated. And it can be good...or bad. Trying for duck cutlets is bad. So is saying 'uh, got other things to do'. It's a test of what ya got under the hood.

Well, the 'got other things to do' was not an option. Miz Cricket was fighting the lead, ready to party. I grabbed the plastic leaf rake (for scooping puppies off stock), took a deep breath and let her go.

The ideal in herding dogs is one who stays just on the fight/flight zone so that the stock doesn't bolt, but will 'give' to that pressure, especially if the dog uses 'eye' and stares aggressively, and will move off the dog in a calm and organized fashion. Rather than in a panicked route. The ideal dog will find 'balance', positioning the stock between it and the handler (we gotcha!). Mostly you get much less perfection than that. The pup charges into the flock, grips, scatters the stock, what have you. You can fix it later, but it's nice if you don't have to.

So. Miz Cricket. She took off and flanked around the ducks like a pro, came to balance, eyed up. When a duck bit her...twice!....she just backed up a step, stared hard, and pushed it back into the flock. Naughty duck! Now if that had been a rottie puppy, I'd be having you for dinner tonight. Even when a single duck took off screeching, she flanked out and brought him back to the flock, stopping on balance to me and simply holding them.

Wow. Who trained this dog while I wasn't looking?? Trudy was VERY happy. She says she has never seen a pup work this well. Cricket was very happy. Until I finally got hold of her and made her stop working. I think we'd still be out there. Sheep are next. She was all ready when we went down to feed tonight. Well, I'll have a nice lamb crop for her shortly. Just her size.

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